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Ten Pin Bowling

Updated on May 5, 2010

Bowling is an indoor sport in which contestants roll balls along wooden lanes toward a target consisting of bottle-shaped pins, the object being to knock down all the pins in a set number of attempts.

By far the most popular form of bowling is tenpins, played with large, heavy balls and 10 pins set up in spots at the target end of the bowling lane. Variations of the game using smaller and lighter balls and pins include duckpins, rubberband duckpins, and candlepins. The Canadian game of fivepins uses duck-pin balls and five rubberband pins. All forms of the game are played on a regulation bowling lane.

Pins and Balls

A regulation big pin, or ten-pin, is 15 inches in height and about 4 3/4 inches in diameter at its widest part; it may not weigh more than 3 pounds 10 ounces. The standard ball has a maximum diameter of about 8 1/2 inches, circumference of 27 inches, and weight of 16 pounds. Each ball has 2 to 5 drilled holes for the bowler's thumb and fingers.

Image by Sachin Ghodke
Image by Sachin Ghodke

Basic Rules

A game of tenpins consists of 10 frames, in each of which a bowler rolls a maximum of two balls. One point is awarded for each pin toppled. The bowler with the highest score for the 10 frames wins that game. Pins knocked down are removed after each ball is rolled.

A bowler gets a bonus if he rolls a strike or a spare. He rolls a strike if he topples all 10 pins on his first try in any frame. For this he receives 10 points plus the number of pins he topples with the next two balls rolled. If he rolls a second strike in his next turn, he scores 10 more points which he adds to what he makes on his first roll in the third frame. If he rolls a third consecutive strike, his score for the first of the three frames is 30. Should he continue to roll strikes throughout (12 in all, including the two bonus chances in the 10th frame), he would finish with a perfect score: 300.

A bowler rolls a spare if he topples all pins in two consecutive attempts, and he is credited with 10 points for that frame. He adds these to the score he makes on his first ball in the next frame. A maximum score for a spare is 20.

A bowler commits a miss if he fails to topple all pins in his two attempts in a frame. He has a split if he knocks down the headpin on the first roll and has at least one pin down between two or more standing pins, or if at least one pin is down immediately ahead of two or more standing pins.

If any part of a bowler's body comes in contact with any portion of the lane beyond the foul line during his delivery, he commits a foul. This counts as a ball rolled, but pins toppled are not counted.

Basic Techniques

Grip. In tenpins, most bowlers use a three-finger grip, holding the ball with thumb, middle finger, and ring finger in the bored holes. With a tivo-finger grip, the thumb and middle finger are used. Use of a four- or a five-holed ball is rare. Small-pin bowlers grip lightly with all fingers.

Stance. A bowler may stand erect or crouched. He may keep both feet together or place one foot ahead of the other. The important consideration is that he stand relaxed, facing the pins at a distance from the foul line. This enables him to take the necessary steps and to slide in the approach. The average distance is 12 to 15 feet.

A bowler holds the ball with both hands, either in front of his chest or to one side. He transfers the weight of the ball to his bowling hand as he starts his movement. To reduce strain on his fingers, the tenpin bowler should not insert them into the holes in the ball until he begins the approach.

Approach. The object of the approach is to get the ball in motion for the delivery, and the most important factor is to finish on balance. A 4-step or 5-step approach is common in tenpins; the 3-step, in small pin games. Throughout, the bowler must travel in a straight line and keep his bowling elbow close to his body. Approaches are diagrammed below.

Three Step Approach: This approach relies almost entirely on strength. The bowler pushes the ball forward on step 1, brings it down and back fast on step 2, and pulls it forward quickly on step 3. With a small ball, a high backswing is not necessary.
Three Step Approach: This approach relies almost entirely on strength. The bowler pushes the ball forward on step 1, brings it down and back fast on step 2, and pulls it forward quickly on step 3. With a small ball, a high backswing is not necessary.
Four Step Approach: In this approach, the bowler extends the ball forward on step 1. On step 2 his bowling arm goes into the backswing, which reaches its height on step 3. He brings the ball forward on step 4, releasing it at the end of this sliding
Four Step Approach: In this approach, the bowler extends the ball forward on step 1. On step 2 his bowling arm goes into the backswing, which reaches its height on step 3. He brings the ball forward on step 4, releasing it at the end of this sliding
Five Step Approach: With five-step footwork, step 1 is short. The bowler moves the ball forward on step 2, begins the drop on 3, and reaches the height of the backswing on 4. The ball comes forward on step 5, into a long slide and straight-arm releas
Five Step Approach: With five-step footwork, step 1 is short. The bowler moves the ball forward on step 2, begins the drop on 3, and reaches the height of the backswing on 4. The ball comes forward on step 5, into a long slide and straight-arm releas

Delivery. In all games the easiest type of delivery to control is the straight ball. Tenpin bowlers deliver this with the thumb on top of the ball (in a 12 o'clock position), pointing in the direction the ball should go. On releasing the ball, the bowler removes his thumb from the ball first. In small-pin bowling, the ball rolls off the fingertips, wrist straight.

To roll a hook ball a right-handed bowler starts with his thumb at about an 11 o'clock position (a left-handed bowler's thumb should be at about a 1 o'clock position). The bowler lifts the ball with his fingers after he removes his thumb on the release. As the ball leaves his hand he gives it a spin or turn by following through with his fingers.

Whereas a hook travels in a straight line until the momentum slackens and causes the ball to rotate instead of skid, the curve ball begins its action immediately after release and follows a wide arc. For this delivery a right-hander's thumb is below the 10 o'clock position on the ball (left-hander's thumb is below the 2 o'clock position). The hook and curve balls are more "strike-producing" than the straight ball because they impart spin or "mix" to the pins.

In tenpins, a right-handed bowler always aims for the pocket, or space, between the 1 and 3 pins; the left-handed bowler tries to hit the pocket between 1 and 2 pins. In small pins, the bowler tries to hit the headpin off center so that the ball does not chop through and take out only the 1 and 5.

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    • profile image

      Dr.S.C.Bose, Olympia, Kolkata 

      6 years ago

      In India specially in Calcutta children play Ten Pin Bowling on roof top by using

      Wooden Bottle Shaped Ten Pins ( 15" height) and Wooden Ball

      of 7"-8" diameter about 3kg. Weight.

    • profile image

      7 years ago

      bowling is mainly about hiting your line and being able to under stand when the lane i changing and where to move let that be five boards or ten boards at some time during the game you will have to move let it be your feet or your line or sometimes even yor target.

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